Month: May 2011

In the Neck Ache Business

Much of my professional life, I listen to moms who come in and tell me various and sundry things that the school has told them about their child. Hearing some of the things that the moms are told, I can feel my neck twinge.

Sometimes I can feel it twinge maybe five or six times per one hour session. That’s when I realized I need to go to a chiropractor.

When it’s really bad I sometimes I feel like a raccoon in a trap. (Yes, I know, my parents wanted me to go to dental school, but I had to do it my way and chose this career path.)

Just today my neck was twinging a lot. So much so, I’ve started researching some local chiropractor’s so that the twinge will go away. I came across First choice, which looks like a good chiropractor clinic but I haven’t found the time to book myself in just yet. My neck often twinges after hearing some of the things the mom had been told:
“We really don’t know what dyslexia is?” (Yes we do?)
“In all my years of teaching, I have never had a dyslexic child,” the mom was told by an experienced second grade teacher. (Yes, you have. In fact, you probably had about 20 30% of your class on the dyslexic continuum in any one of your classes)
“Spelling really doesn’t matter.” (Really???)
“The only thing in reading that matters is comprehension.” (Is that right? So, when the child sees a word like “porcupine” in the text and reads it as “prickopinny,” that’s ok because he/she got the gist of the story, somehow.)
“Only neurologists and psychiatrists can test for dyslexia, since it is a medical condition.” (You mean that a neurologist will give a broad battery of tests to assess dyslexia? Funny, I don’t know any who do that in my community.)
On and on it goes.
These quotes were just from the first session today that I had.
I need a heating pad.
I’m calling the chiropractor now.
Maybe I’ll apply to dental school.

Pain Avoiders in College

Many college kids that I know are rudderless ships, bobbing around at sea, avoiding pain at all costs. They gamble on pain and roll the dice. “Should I face the current pain of my school work, or put it off for a later date (or never).”  Many choose the latter.

The chickens “came home to roost” this week as colleges reported grades for this past semester.
So many kids who weighed the pain and avoided their current pain (going to class, handing in work), only to receive the later pain of failing the class were stunned. 
“I don’t know how I could have failed,” a young college student, James,  reported to me. “I did my work.”
James thought he was meeting his basic responsibilities. The reality is he probably handed in about 60% (at best) of the required work, and of the 60% handed in, most of it was  probably in the “C to D” range. At no point in the semester did he attempt to meet with his professors to try and see what he can do to make things better.
The truth is on a day-to-day basis, James kept avoiding pain. On average, James probably put in maybe an hour or two (at best) of work each week, even though he was carrying a full course load. Avoiding pain daily, James probably spent about 10 hours or more a day on the internet or playing video games.
Another young man that I know was dropped off on campus each day by his parents, only to avoid going to class, choosing instead to go to the computer lab and hang out on Facebook and a range of other entertainment sites. 
The internet is a safe haven for these pain avoiders. Facebook can be quite the narcotic when there is all this painful stuff like schoolwork out there to deal with. The soothing blue tones on the Facebook page are much more pleasing than the harsh white page of a Word document staring at you with no words on the page.
504 Plans and various services are available on all campuses, but unless the kid makes an active decision to take responsibility for his or her own learning, the accommodations are essentially meaningless. The two students mentioned above, did not avail themselves of any accommodations or services.
Having a floppy rudder makes college a very difficult place, indeed.
There are endless ways to stay in the shadows and avoid the pain.


Screeching on the Violin

Once a pon a time their was a boy who had no friends so he was always alon But then one day  every thing change His mom gave him a violin to play it sounded horabel so he said he said I am never playing this agin so then one Day he went in the store and heard a guy play the vialin it sonded awesome so he said to his mom that’s how I want to play well then you need to pratis and then he did and he was so good at it.

This is a story written by a 10 year old boy named Grant. It is written to a psychological test card that shows a boy looking at a violin. How the character manages the violin and resolves playing the violin in the story created by the child, often reveals the child’s underlying feelings about achievement and self-worth. This story is written exactly as Grant wrote it.
After working with the Grant, I was struck how much the story was a true x-ray of how he was feeling. While Grant intuitively understands he is not measuring up, he is still optimistic, as the story suggests. In reality, others around Grant are easily reading chapter books, while he is struggling at much lower reading levels. Grant is also struggling with writing, and he is starting to feel the pressure of teachers and parents talking about meeting "The Common Core State Standards," something that Grant has no idea what that means, but is nonetheless increasing his anxiety.
Grant is also starting to sense that others are snickering at him and he is feeling increasingly embarrassed.
Grant needs to learn how to write in structured, systematic ways, so that he can begin to understand how to write a sentence and use basic punctuation. Insisting that Grant respond to open-ended writing prompts will likely leave him feeling frustrated and unable to know how to proceed. 
The appropriate work for Grant will take a great deal of time and focused practice at the sentence level.  Once Grant can master the writing of simple sentences, he can move on to sentences that are more complex. Perhaps, then, he can start to work on a simple paragraph and practice writing paragraphs for while, before moving on to more involved essays.
Grant also is in need of connection and to believe in himself more.
So, if your child is metaphorically screeching on the violin, try and find people who understand the nature of the remedial work needed and who can reach the child at both the skill level and the emotional level.  This is what happens with good learning therapy. 
After a while there may be less screeching and better sounds coming from the "violin."
(Adapted from "School Struggles," Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  Sentient Publications 2012)

504 Plans: Keep Them Simple or They Will Be Ignored

“504” plans have been so much a part of the school landscape for  many years that we forget that the “504” did not originate with schools. 504 is part of the ADA legislation. The guiding principle of 504 is that reasonable accommodations would help to “level the playing field” for those with disabilities in the workplace or school. 

 The operative word is “reasonable.”
Many parents will come to me with reports from a variety of other professionals, containing 10, 20 or even 30 boilerplate recommendations to be incorporated in the child’s 504 plan. Usually my eyes start to glaze over after reading past canned recommendation number 5 or so. 
What do you think is happening to the teacher when she looks at these recommendations? Right – glazed over eyes. It’s a prescription for doing none of the accommodations.
Even though you feel very armed and ready with your doctor’s multiple recommendations, the fact is the school will not be able to do a vast majority of what is being suggested. 
My advice would be that you simplify things. Come up with two or three (at the most) really helpful things that you think your child’s teacher can do to help your child along. Come up with “reasonable” accommodations that help to make the road a little smoother for your child
Anything requested beyond three recommendations, the school will just be checking off boxes on a 504 template for you to sign and for the school to ignore, until the time that the 504 is to be “revisited” a year later for signing and ignoring.



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